How can I be sure I have a headache disorder?

Your doctor will most likely:

  • ask you about your headache symptoms
  • ask how frequent your headaches are, how severe they are, and how long they last
  • ask what triggers your headaches or what makes them worse
  • ask about symptoms that accompany your headache, such as sensory changes and difficulty thinking
  • take a comprehensive medical history
  • ask what medications you are taking
  • ask if you've experienced any head injuries
  • give you a physical exam
  • compare your symptoms with criteria in medical texts and make a diagnosis

Visiting your doctor is the best way to determine what type of headache you have. It is also the best way to learn what kind of treatment you need. If you have recurrent headache pain, your doctor will need to speak with you and examine you to make a proper diagnosis. Your doctor needs to rule out other, possibly more serious, causes of your symptoms. Tests and scans are not usually needed to diagnose most headaches, so don't expect them.



Even though headaches are extremely common, only 4 out of every 100 doctor visits are about headache pain. Fewer than 15% of people with migraine see a neurologist, and less than 2% ever visit a headache specialist. Most people mention headaches to their doctor only after discussing other complaints. But if you don't report headache symptoms to your doctor, you can't get the diagnosis and treatment you need.

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